Catholics Analyze Racism in Africa

25 Countries Prepare for U.N. World Conference

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NAIROBI, Kenya, MAY 28, 2001 ( An African conference has urged stronger efforts against racism and warned about the trafficking and abuse of women and girls and the «feminization» of poverty.

More than 70 Catholics from 25 African countries, convoked by cultural groups, met here in preparation for the U.N. World Conference Against Racism, set for Aug. 31-Sept. 7 in South Africa.

The participants noted that racism is taking on new faces, leading to the escalation of racial and ethnic conflicts, such as the 1994 Rwandan genocide, according to the African Catholic news agency CISA.

Other consequences mentioned were the rapid increase in refugees and internally displaced persons, the dumping of hazardous toxic wastes, religious intolerance, especially in Sudan and Nigeria, and the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS due to the high cost of medicine.

Conferees attributed the escalation of armed conflicts in Africa to the abandonment of democratic government and the politicization of race and ethnicity.

They also blamed the interference of foreign interests that are involved in the arms trade and the exploitation of national resources.

The participants contended that girls and women especially have been victimized by poverty, trafficking and sexual abuse.

The conferees called upon the international community, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), churches and governments to strengthen democratic government with a view to eliminating all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination.

Those attending the meeting were drawn from the International Movement of Catholic Professionals and Cultural Affairs; the International Movement of Young Catholic Students; and the International Movement of Catholic Students.

Organizers of the upcoming U.N. conference say its success may hinge on the active commitment of civil groups, especially in the NGOs´ Forum.

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